What Parents Should Know: Fluoride and Cavity Prevention for Kids

Dentist and dental assistant teaching a young patient proper brushing

If there’s one inalienable truth in the world, it’s that children love sweets. As a parent, you do your best to protect your children from all sorts of things that could do them harm. But when it comes to sweets, we all inevitably cave at least once; which means cavities are a real concern all parents should have for the health of their children’s teeth.

The good news is you’re not alone in the mission against cavities! Your local pediatric dentist is your ally against the evil “sugar bugs” and knows the best way to help stave off and prevent the development of plaque that will lead to cavities.

Here are some things every parent should know about cavity prevention, fluoride, and how to keep children’s smiles happy, healthy, and whole.

What Are Cavities and How Do They Form?

Cavities are weak spots in your teeth that are caused by the build-up of bacteria on your teeth, commonly known as plaque (but otherwise known to the wise child as “sugar bugs”). Cavities require four simple things: a tooth, bacteria (plaque or “sugar bugs”), sugar or other simple carbohydrates, and time.

If plaque build-up on teeth is exposed to simple carbohydrates—a.k.a. sugar—the bacteria will produce acid as a byproduct. If this acid is left to sit on teeth, it leaches the minerals from your pearly smile, weakening the tooth. After enough time, the tooth will break and cause a cavity.

Brushing and flossing teeth every day will help prevent cavities, and there are other methods that can help bolster the defense of your children’s sweet smile.


Fluoride helps inhibit the leaching of minerals from teeth and strengthens weaker areas that have already succumbed to mineral loss. Fluoride application also can repair some early cavities before they advance. Using fluoride has been proven to be a safe and effective method against cavities.

After a dental exam, your dentist will recommend whether or not you should consider fluoride treatments for your children. Nowadays, concentrated fluoride application at the pediatric dentist’s office is a standard practice for all kids. Children at higher risk of developing cavities, either due to tooth shape or diet, are recommended to have more frequent fluoride applications because of the cavity-prevention benefits it offers.

If you’re not comfortable with fluoride, however, there are some alternative options.

MI Paste

MI paste is an alternative to fluoride that can be used to help strengthen your children’s teeth. It is a topical crème that contains phosphate and calcium, two minerals that are effective at helping protect and repair teeth from cavities.

The crème is simple to apply, and a dentist will show you and your child how to apply the paste so it can be done at home. The downside to MI paste is that it must be used daily for continued effectiveness.


Sealants are a type of plastic material that dentists can use to fill in deep grooves or pits that regular brushing is unable to reach. These pits are home to plaque build-up because they cannot be regularly brushed away.

Sealing up these grooves means your child will be able to brush away plaque and prevent the build-up of cavity-forming bacteria. Though helpful when it comes to deep-grooved teeth, this method does not help the rest of your teeth and must be combined with daily brushing and flossing.

Regardless of the methods you choose to help fend off “sugar bugs,” it’s important to teach your children the importance of dental health. It’s a very sugary world out there, and no one wants to give up sugar completely. That’s why support from your dentist in the form of fluoride or MI paste can help maintain your children’s healthy, vibrant smiles.

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